Kobe Bryant says he won’t play for Team USA in 2016 Olympics
Leading up to this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janiero, the biggest question surrounding the USA Basketball program has been the will-he-or-won’t-he speculation about Kobe Bryant’s involvement. He’s already announced that he’s retiring from the NBA after this season, but Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski hinted this past summer that Bryant wanted to ride out into the sunset with Team USA.
This, of course, has led to widespread debate about whether or not Bryant deserves a spot on the team — at this point, it would be tough to argue that he does, based on merit, but as a lifetime-achievement award, there’s an argument to be made that it’s good politics to give him one.
On Saturday night in Utah, Bryant himself put the debate to rest, telling reporters that he’s taking himself out of the running for one of the 12 spots on the team.
Via the Deseret News’ Jody Gennessy:
Kobe Bryant will not pursue a spot on the 2016 Olympics team. "I think it's the young guys' turn to go. ... I've had my moment."— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) January 16, 2016
Kobe Bryant: "I think it will be pretty sweet to play my last game in a Lakers uniform."— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) January 17, 2016
Kobe: "As beautiful as it would be to play for the country...when I say my last game, it’s going to be my last game." That's April 13 in LA.— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) January 17, 2016
This season has been humbling for Bryant, who initially resisted the idea of a farewell tour, until it became abundantly clear that he isn’t the same player anymore. His body has almost completely broken down, although he’s been better lately than he was at the beginning of the season. If he makes it all the way to the final day of the regular season fully healthy, the idea of having to stay in game shape for another four months to sit on the end of the bench in Rio can’t be appealing.
Bryant’s decision makes the roster for Team USA more intriguing. There’s obviously no shortage of talent in the program, and his withdrawal could open up a spot for one of the borderline up-and-coming names like Andre Drummond or Jimmy Butler.